What Barghouthi says is not new but that doesn’t make it any less tragic. It is simply crazy that a man of his stature should be denied access to the city in which he was born, and what is more obscene is that the ‘West’ turns a blind eye to this legalized racism and indeed finances it! Dave
‘Separate and Unequal’ is unacceptable to Palestinians
By Mustafa Barghouthi, member, Palestinian Parliament
When presidential candidate Mitt Romney arrives in Israel Saturday and travels to occupied East Jerusalem to see the holy sites there he will be entering a city I am no longer allowed to visit – privately or as a medical doctor or as a presidential candidate. He somehow possesses more rights to the city than I do despite the fact that I was born in Jerusalem and worked as a medical doctor in Makassed hospital for several years. During my presidential campaign I was arrested and deported four times for entering the city to meet Palestinian voters.
My enforced absence pains me enormously. And I believe that my inability to enter — and that of hundreds of thousands of other Palestinians — points to the fast-approaching demise of the two-state solution. Prime Minister Netanyahu and his international friends are simply not interested in addressing the dispossession and absence of rights endured by Palestinians.
The demise of the two-state solution is right there with climate change: It’s staring us all in the face. But politicians are either too incompetent to see it, too scared to address it, or too content with a reality that benefits Jewish settlers and harms Palestinians because it works to their political advantage.
Palestinian politicians and civil society leaders have signaled the impending impossibility of two states for several years. Yet too many international observers regard us as the boy who cried wolf. I do not know precisely when a younger generation of Palestinians will decide that two states is an outdated pipe dream of their parents’ generation, nor when Fatah officials will reach the same conclusion. But I do suspect that Israeli moderates and American officials will one day look back at this time period and wonder why Israeli leaders did not seize the moment, freeze settlement activity, and strike a deal with the Palestinian people. Hubris and a zealot’s certainty are likely causes of the Israeli leadership’s inability to see with clear eyes what should be done.
The settler population in the West Bank has grown by 18 percent in Netanyahu’s three-plus years in office. Israel’s hold on the West Bank is increasing and the growing population ensures that no Israeli leader would dare to abide by international law and insist that settlers move out. Recently, the Levy Commission determined that there is not even an occupation of the West Bank, though Israeli, American, and international officials have recognized its reality for years. Netanyahu is reportedly poised to embrace the Commission’s findings.
Levy is, of course, wrong in his legal reasoning. But far more important is what he leaves unsaid. What will be the rights of Palestinians in a West Bank no longer regarded as occupied? Will we be afforded full voting rights or subjected to a system of apartheid?
I fear the latter. In introducing a 166-page report in December 2010, “Separate and Unequal: Israel’s Discriminatory Treatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” Carroll Bogert, deputy executive director for external relations at Human Rights Watch, stated, “Palestinians face systematic discrimination merely because of their race, ethnicity, and national origin, depriving them of electricity, water, schools, and access to roads, while nearby Jewish settlers enjoy all of these state-provided benefits. While Israeli settlements flourish, Palestinians under Israeli control live in a time warp – not just separate, not just unequal, but sometimes even pushed off their lands and out of their homes.”
The Palestinian reality has only deteriorated since then with the Israeli Knesset taking up discriminatory legislation. A New York Times editorial recently noted that “activists say, more than 25 bills have been proposed or passed by the Parliament to limit freedom of speech and of the press; penalize, defund or investigate nongovernmental groups; restrict judicial independence; and trample minority rights.” When Israel sneezes, or gets a bad flu on the rights front, one can be certain that the reality in occupied Palestinian territory is even more dire.
How else can we describe this week’s report that Israel intends to demolish eight Palestinian villages in the West Bank and force the inhabitants to live elsewhere? This is surely a form of ethnic cleansing as it makes way for the Israeli military and perhaps later for settlers to seize land Palestinians have tended for centuries. The proposed demolition is precisely why nonviolent Palestinian and international activists are pressing for divestment from Caterpillar. The company’s equipment is already being used against individual Palestinian homes, but more recently Israel has begun to use it to demolish whole communities.
President Barack Obama’s increasing reticence on Palestinian rights suggests that Israel’s fiercest right-wing advocates have carried the day with the President. He’s now locked in a battle with Romney to prove his hardline, pro-Israel bona fides. And he’s feeling the heat when Romney states, “Well, I think by and large you can just look at the things the president’s done and do the opposite. I mean, you know, you consider his first address to the United Nations, he castigated Israel for building settlements.”
President Obama was right to criticize such law-breaking. It showed wisdom and responsibility and the realization that settlement expansion works against a two-state solution. But Obama’s recent silence and Romney’s seemingly neo-conservative embrace of Israeli expansionism suggest that the prospect of a two-state solution will end during one administration or the other.
If President Obama and Gov. Romney expect Palestinians will meekly accept apartheid then they are quite wrong. A battle for equal rights is looming in the near future because of the arrogance of Israeli and American leaders who are proving incapable of understanding the discriminatory conditions they are creating with the expansion of settlements and ongoing disregard for Palestinian rights.
Barghouthi, a doctor and member of the Palestinian Parliament, is secretary general of the Palestinian National Initiative, a political party.
Jonathan Cook says that while many of us treat Justice Levy’s decision – that there is no such thing as the Palestinian Occupation – as some sort of bad joke, it is truly no laughing matter. While nobody internationally may take him seriously, the decision could well be used to legalize the annexation of large areas of the West Bank!
Original article in The National
If settlements are ‘legal’, the ground is laid for annexation
Jul 18, 2012
The recently published report by an Israeli judge concluding that Israel is not in fact occupying the Palestinian territories – despite an international consensus to the contrary – has provoked mostly incredulity or mirth in Israel and abroad.
Left-wing websites in Israel used comically captioned photographs to highlight Justice Edmond Levy’s preposterous finding. One shows an Israeli soldier pressing the barrel of a rifle to the forehead of a Palestinian pinned to the ground, saying: “You see – I told you there’s no occupation.”
Even Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, seemed a little discomfited by the coverage last week. He was handed the report more than a fortnight earlier but was apparently reluctant to make it public.
Downplaying the Levy report’s significance may prove unwise, however. If Mr Netanyahu is embarrassed, it is only because of the timing of the report’s publication rather than its substance.
It was, after all, the Israeli prime minister himself who established the committee earlier this year to assess the legality of the Jewish settlers’ “outposts”, ostensibly unauthorised by the government, that have spread across the West Bank.
He hand-picked its three members, all diehard supporters of the settlements, and received the verdict he expected – that the settlements are legal. Certainly, Justice Levy’s opinion should have come as no surprise. In 2005, he was the only Supreme Court judge to oppose the decision to withdraw the settlers from Gaza.
Legal commentators too have been dismissive of the report. They have concentrated more on Justice Levy’s dubious reasoning than on the report’s political significance.
Under international law, Israel’s rule in the West Bank and Gaza is considered “belligerent occupation” and, therefore, its actions must be justified by military necessity only. If there is no occupation, Israel has no military grounds to hold on to the territories. In that case, it must either return the land to the Palestinians, and move out the settlers, or defy international law by annexing the territories, as it did earlier with East Jerusalem, and establish a state of Greater Israel.
Annexation, however, poses its own dangers. Israel must either offer the Palestinians citizenship and wait for a non-Jewish majority to emerge in Greater Israel; or deny them citizenship and face pariah status as an apartheid state.
Just such concerns were raised on Sunday by 40 Jewish leaders in the United States, who called on Mr Netanyahu to reject “legal manoeuvrings” that threatened Israel’s “future as a Jewish and democratic state”. But from Israel’s point of view, there may, in fact, be a way out of this conundrum.
In a 2003 interview, one of the other Levy committee members, Alan Baker, a settler who advised the foreign ministry for many years, explained Israel’s heterodox interpretation of the Oslo Accords, signed a decade earlier.
The agreements were not, as most assumed, the basis for the creation of a Palestinian state in the territories, but a route to establish the legitimacy of the settlements. “We are no longer an occupying power, but we are instead present in the territories with their [Palestinians'] consent.”
By this view, Oslo redesignated the 62 per cent of the West Bank assigned to Israel’s control – so-called Area C – from “occupied” to “disputed” territory. That explains why every Israeli administration since the mid-1990s has indulged in an orgy of settlement-building there.
According to Jeff Halper, head of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, the Levy report is preparing the legal ground for Israel’s annexation of Area C. His disquiet is shared by others.
Recent European Union reports have used unprecedented language to criticise Israel for the “forced transfer” – diplomat-speak for ethnic cleansing – of Palestinians out of Area C into the West Bank’s cities, which fall under Palestinian control.
The EU notes that the numbers of Palestinians in Area C has shrunk dramatically under Israeli rule to fewer than 150,000, or 6 per cent of the Palestinian population of the West Bank. Settlers now outnumber Palestinians more than two-to-one in Area C.
Israel could annex nearly two-thirds of the West Bank and still safely confer citizenship on Palestinians there. Adding 150,000 to the existing 1.5 million Palestinian citizens of Israel, a fifth of the population, would not erode the Jewish majority’s dominance.
If Mr Netanyahu is hesitant, it is only because the time is not yet ripe for implementation. But over the weekend, there were indications of Israel’s next moves to strengthen its hold on Area C.
It was reported that Israel’s immigration police had been authorised to expel foreign activists from the West Bank. The new powers were on show the same day as the army arrested foreigners, including a New York Times reporter, at one of the regular Palestinian anti-wall protests in Area C.
And on Sunday, it emerged that Israel had begun a campaign against OCHA, the UN agency that focuses on humanitarian harm to Palestinians in Area C from Israeli military and settlement activity. Israel has demanded details of where OCHA’s staff work and what projects it is planning.
There is a problem, nonetheless. If Israel takes Area C, it needs someone else responsible for the other 38 per cent of the West Bank – little more than 8 per cent of historic Palestine – to “fill the vacuum”, as Israeli commentators phrased it last week.
The obvious candidate is the Palestinian Authority, the Ramallah government-in- waiting. But the PA’s weakness is evident on all fronts: it has lost credibility with ordinary Palestinians, it is impotent in international forums and it is mired in a financial crisis.
If the PA refuses to, or cannot, take on these remaining fragments of the West Bank, Israel may simply opt to turn back the clock and once again cultivate weak and isolated local leaders for each Palestinian city.
The question is whether the international community can first be made to swallow Justice Levy’s absurd conclusion.
- Jonathan Cook is a journalist based in Nazareth and the recipient of the 2011 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism
This just in from The Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF), courtesy of the World Council of Churches:
PIEF’s strategy has always included initiatives geared to ending public support for the occupation. The opposition against the occupation of the Palestinian Territories is growing both inside the state of Israel and internationally. In facilitating an end to public support, PIEF has focused on public education, economic measures and other concrete acts of solidarity directed at changing situations on-the-ground and also changing public perceptions around the world.
In the last few weeks, PIEF has received encouraging news on “economic measures” taken up by the international community. Many of these reports have appeared on the PIEF website in recent weeks. PIEF now reports to its constituents some of the recent steps as regards economic measures:
Friends Fiduciary Corporation (FFC) divests from caterpillar
Two weeks ago, the Quaker Friends Fiduciary Corporation (FFC) divested from Caterpillar. They assert that their action is one which upholds “the core commitment of the Society of Friends to peace”. In divesting 900,000 US dollars in shares of Caterpillar, they made a pertinent point of being categorical opponents of armaments – Caterpillar being a producer and seller of weaponized bulldozers to Israel.
After a roller coaster United Methodist divestment campaign ending in partial victory, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation is so excited to announce that the Quaker Friends Fiduciary Corporation (FFC), which holds over 200 million US dollars in assets, has divested from Caterpillar! FFC divested 900,000 US dollars in shares of Caterpillar, which continues to feel the pressure from all sides for its production and sale of weaponized bulldozers to Israel, used to violate Palestinian rights and destroy Palestinian homes, schools, hospitals, olive groves, and lives.
The Ann Arbor Friends Meeting who initiated the call to divest described the decision as “a significant step since FFC handles investments for over 250 Quaker meetings, schools, organizations, trusts, and endowments around the US”. FFC has a “zero tolerance for weapons and weapons components,” and said, “We are uncomfortable defending our position on this stock.”
FFC is not the first Quaker institution to avoid companies that support the Israeli occupation. In March 2008, the Board of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a US Campaign member group, approved an Israel/Palestine investment screen, stating: “Investments should not be made in any company that provides products or services, including financial services, to Israeli governmental or military bodies… or to Israeli or Palestinian organizations or groups that are used to facilitate or undertake violent acts against civilians or violations of international law.”
FinnChurchAid and EAPPI
FinnChurchAid and EAPPI Finland have launched a consumer campaign on settlement goods demanding that the government ban labelling of settlement products as “Made in Israel”. Campaign materials include a leaflet and postcard that people can give to their local shop managers or drop to customer feedback boxes in shops, a model letter to the headquarters of supermarket chains, and an online petition targeting several ministers and asking them to introduce compulsory labelling and to act on companies co-operating with settlements.
United Methodists take action on divestments
Delegates to The United Methodist Church’s assembly approved petitions dealing with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. They also called for efforts from the United Methodist Board of Pension and Health Benefits to explore “serious peace-making strategies in Israel and Palestine, including positive economic and financial investment in Palestine.” The petition asks for United Methodist general agencies and boards to ensure companies adopt United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The United Methodist Church condemned the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.
Despite the failure to obtain approval for divestments that targeted Hewlett Packard, Motorola Solutions and Caterpillar based on the “role of their products in Israeli occupation”, delegates approved a report that called on the general Board of Pension and Health benefits to move towards “serious peace making strategies”.
Kairos Palestine commended the United Methodist Church (UMC) for its important steps toward the defence of Palestinian rights and peace with justice. They stated that “although we had hoped that the General Conference would have courageously crossed this concrete step, we trust that the international community is becoming increasingly aware of these corporations’ complicity with Israel’s human rights violations, and we applaud the UMC for raising awareness through its support for a (general) boycott”.
Swiss supermarket giant Migros steps in with stringent labelling regulations
In a report from the Times of Israel, we are informed that Switzerland’s largest retail chain “would join a growing list of countries and sellers refusing to mark goods produced in the West Bank as “Made in Israel.” This move follows close on the heels of decisions in South Africa and Denmark where firm steps were initiated to stop labelling products made in the settlements as Israeli. Migros described the decisions as ones taken “in the interests of greater transparency, and (is) designed to help the customers to make an informed choice”.
Palestine’s Christians expressed support for decisions by the governments of South Africa and Denmark, as well as from Switzerland’s largest retail chain Migros, to distinguish products made in the illegal West Bank settlements from those made in Israel, a statement by Kairos Palestine said on Friday. Describing the decisions as “historic,” Kairos Palestine said, “We believe that this decision is a positive step into the right direction and we hope more countries and companies will follow this initiative.”
South Africa Trade and Industry Ministry announces labelling measures
The South Africa Trade and Industry Ministry declared its intent to “ban local importers from selling products from West Bank settlements with a label indicating that they were made in Israel”. A one year-long campaign launched by Palestinian organizations and South African human rights groups preceded this decision.
As in many cases, countries and companies are not necessarily banning the sale of products from settlements, but obliging sellers to apply a special label noting that the product originates from beyond the Green Line.
For more, read an article in ynetnews.com
Presbyterian Church in the USA to propose Responsibility Through Investment
According to the website of the Presbyterian Church in the USA, “The General Assembly Mission Council (GAMC) is recommending that the upcoming 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) divest the church of its stock in three companies ‘until they have ceased profiting from non-peaceful activities in Israel-Palestine.’” The three companies are Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions and Hewlett-Packard.
The report says: “At issue are their participation in the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the construction of the ‘security barrier’ between Israel and Palestinian territory, and the destruction of Palestinian homes, roads and fields to make way for the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which have been declared illegal under international law.”
“We have run out of hope that these companies are willing to change their corporate practices [in Israel-Palestine],” said the Rev. Brian Ellison, a Kansas City pastor and chair of the denomination’s Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee (MRTI).
For more information, read the PCUSA news article
PIEF acknowledges and recognizes the dedicated moments of preparation and the political pressures that the people behind these decisions have been through. The founding call of PIEF in Amman Jordan called for “costly solidarity” and that’s just what these steps are. The plea from Palestinian Christians to their brothers and sisters in Christ in Amman still echoes: “Enough is enough. No more words without deeds. It is time for action.” In pursuance of the summons to “costly discipleship”, churches increasingly refuse to remain silent in the face of Palestinian suffering.
PIEF encourages and urges its constituents to continue their courageous and innovative action for justice and peace.
Palestine-Israel Ecumenical Forum
The Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF) is an international, inter-church advocacy initiative for peace in Israel and Palestine. The PIEF Newsletter is distributed by the World Council of Churches. You are registered to receive it at the address email@example.com….
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The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 349 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million Christians in over 110 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church. The WCC general secretary is Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, from the [Lutheran] Church of Norway.
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Father Dave writes: It is deeply encouraging to hear divergent Jewish voices sounding from the US, and practical actions like the alternative tours organised by J Street can only help to bring greater clarity to the members of Congress who keep the Palestinian Occupation in place.
U.S. congresswomen see Israel, Palestinians in the eyes of J Street
By Linda Gradstein · February 27, 2012
KALANDIYA, West Bank (JTA) — The U.S. congresswomen get off the bus and stand in the chilly shadows of the Kalandiya crossing point between the West Bank and Jerusalem.
It’s late morning, well past the rush hour when thousands of Palestinians congregate here, and only a few dozen Palestinians stand in line. To cross, the Palestinians go through a series of metal turnstiles and wait with their documents until they are called, one by one, to approach the Israeli soldiers sitting behind bullet-proof barriers.
One Palestinian man strikes up a conversation.
“I have American citizenship but I am not allowed to travel through Ben Gurion Airport because I have a Palestinian ID card,” Hamad Hindi of Louisiana tells the congresswomen. “We are seen as guilty of something because we are Palestinian.”
After crossing to the Palestinian side, the congresswomen — part of a trip to Israel and the West Bank organized by the J Street Education Fund — head to Ramallah.
“This is a ticking bomb waiting to go off,” says Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex.) “There must be some other way to do this. After so many years there should be some resolution for this issue.”
The congresswomen clearly are moved by their experience at the checkpoint, and that’s the point.
J Street, the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobbying group that heralds itself as a left-wing alternative to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is trying to present an alternative to the usual pro-Israel fare on congressional missions to Israel. The trip last week included six U.S. congresswomen and a group of women from the Women Donors Network, a coalition of women involved in progressive and social causes.
A spokeswoman for J Street, Jessica Rosenblum, said the trip was part of the organization’s overall effort to promote a two-state solution.
“Our hope is that this and future delegations will help to open up and deepen the conversation in Congress about American policy in the Middle East,” Rosenblum told JTA. “In particular,” she said, the trips are meant to “encourage participating members to convey to their colleagues the urgency of the situation and the need for sustained and vigorous American engagement to reach a two-state solution.”
Over six days, the delegation met Israelis and Palestinians, both leaders and “ordinary women.”
Among the Palestinian business leaders the group met in Ramallah was Sam Bahour, a Palestinian-American entrepreneur who says he has had difficulty acquiring an Israeli residency permit.
“I really appreciate what J Street is doing — it’s a breath of fresh air that there is not one line of thought in the American Jewish community,” he told the delegation. “We are at a fork in the road. Either there will be a two-state solution or it will be too late.”
On the way to the Kalandiya checkpoint, two women from Machsom Watch, an Israeli organization that monitors Israeli soldiers at checkpoints, spoke to the group.
“We believe occupation is ruining our society and threatening our democracy and future existence,” said Neta Efrony, director of a 2008 documentary about the Kalandiya checkpoint. “We need your help and to hear your voice. Israelis don’t want to hear and don’t want to know what is happening.”
If the delegation members’ reactions were any gauge, J Street’s strategy shows promise.
“There’s no awareness of this in the U.S.,” Donna Hall, the president and CEO of the Women Donors Network, said in reference to difficulties faced by Palestinians. “The congresswomen are so brave to be here, especially in an election year.”
The congresswomen also heard from Palestinian businesswomen and female hedge fund managers who described ways to empower Palestinian women in business.
“To see people who are building and hopeful and looking forward to the future is so important,” said Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) “We are already figuring out how to change the dynamics of U.S. policy in the region.”
A single mother living on welfare, Moore began her public career as a community organizer and today is also the Democratic chairwoman of the Congressional Women’s Caucus.
The J Street trip also included visits with Jewish settlers in the West Bank.
From Ramallah, the group drove to Shiloh, a Jewish town in the heart of the West Bank halfway between Ramallah and Nablus that because of its location likely would not be incorporated into Israel in any two-state settlement.
A group of Jewish women from several area settlements met with the congresswomen and told them they have no intention of leaving their homes.
“I’m holding the Bible; Shiloh was our first capital before Jerusalem and it has layers and layers of history,” Tzofiah Dorot, the director of Ancient Shiloh, told the women. “This is the heart of Israel and I don’t see a future for the state if you take the heart out.”
All of the women said they were sure that their settlements would remain part of Israel.
“This is our homeland, the homeland of the Jewish nation — period,” Tamar Aslaf told the delegation. “A Palestinian who lives here is welcome to stay. It’s his home but it’s our homeland.”
Several of the settlers described a scenario in which Palestinians could stay in their homes but not receive national or voting rights. That drew a sharp reply from the congresswomen, five of whom are African Americans.
“Some people would call that apartheid,” said Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), the only white congresswomen on the trip.
“It’s easy to sit in your comfortable house and decide what is good for the Jews,” Dorot responded. “I’m begging you to see that we’re not pieces of Lego you can move around. This is life and death. We all need to think out of the box. I’m asking you to forget about the two- state solution.”
Several members of the delegation said the trip gave them a more sophisticated understanding of the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“In Jerusalem and Tel Aviv it’s so easy not to see much of what we saw,” said Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.). “But what does it mean for democracy when you are willing to sacrifice so much in the name of security?”
Father Roy writes: Watch this video featuring a Jewish settler who was born in the USA: A BBC interview with Israeli settler (08:05). We meet a number of religious Jews when we watch this video: How Christians are treated in Israel (02:07). The article pasted below was first published in the Huffington Post and is self-explanatory. Peace, Roy
As the Illegal Outpost of Migron Goes, So Goes All of Israel
The fate of Migron, an illegal outpost in the heart of the West Bank, is about to be decided. The implications of this decision are about far more than the future of a handful of settlers in a single outpost. This decision will be a litmus test of Israeli rule of law and, ultimately, of Israel’s capacity to make peace with the Palestinians.
How can one outpost be so important?
Outposts are settlements that have been built in the West Bank without Israeli government authorization, in violation of Israeli law. Migron is the flagship of the settlers’ illegal outpost enterprise — one of the largest and most developed outposts and the shining symbol of the settlers’ determination to overcome the Israeli government’s longstanding policy against establishing new settlements.
Migron is an open-and-shut case of theft, the physical embodiment of the settlers’ contempt for Israeli law. Migron is built entirely on land that Israel recognizes as privately-owned by Palestinians. Its establishment and expansion over the past decade epitomizes the corruption that is endemic in Israel’s rule in the West Bank, since neither could have taken place without Israeli government officials aiding and abetting settlers’ law-breaking.
And the persistence of Migron’s existence — despite its blatant illegality and despite repeated Israeli government promises to dismantle it imminently — discloses the settlers’ and the Israeli government’s flagrant disregard for Israeli law and the Israeli Supreme Court.
Last August, after more than 5 years of Israeli government foot-dragging in various legal proceedings, that Court finally laid down a deadline for dismantling Migron: March 31, 2012. With that date fast approaching, the Netanyahu government and the Knesset are now scrambling to find a way circumvent Israeli law and the Court’s decision. They are trying to find a “compromise” to appease settler law-breakers (not the first such effort), or to come up with a way to twist Israeli law to kosher the settlers’ criminal acts. This response to the Court points to an increasingly alarming problem in Israel: sacrificing rule of law to further a far right-wing, anti-democratic ideology. It highlights a longstanding reality that few have wanted to admit: the Israeli political system has to a great degree been hijacked by the settlers and their supporters, in the service of an agenda that openly seeks to keep all or most of the West Bank in Israeli hands in perpetuity, at the cost of any chance for Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Any future Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement will require the establishment of a viable, contiguous state of Palestine alongside Israel. Land swaps may allow most Israeli settlers to remain in their homes, but even the best agreement (from an Israeli perspective) will necessitate the evacuation of settlements located deep inside the West Bank. Migron is located deep inside the West Bank, in an area that cannot possibly remain under Israeli sovereignty in any future agreement.
If the government refuses to remove Migron, even with law and the rulings of the court requiring it to do so, it will send an unmistakable message: Israel today prefers settlements to peace. If Netanyahu claims he can’t remove Migron, because taking on the settlers will bring down his government, it will send another message: Israel is today so deeply in thrall to the settlers that it is incapable of making peace, even if it wanted to.
Finally, should the Israeli government find a way to “kosher” the settlers’ land theft in Migron, it will give a green light for the settlers to build illegally everywhere in the West Bank, knowing that no one, not even the Supreme Court, can or will stop them. In such a case, even if a future Israeli government is more serious about peace than the current one, settler actions on the ground will undoubtedly seek to block any agreement.
The case of Migron is thus not simply about the fate of one outpost. It is a test whose results will reveal whether Israel can continue to uphold even the pretense of being a nation of laws, in which the rule of law reigns supreme, or if it will instead openly embrace “rule by law” — an ugly characteristic of a totalitarian state. Likewise, the fate of Migron will disclose whether settler influence has so deeply penetrated Israeli policy and governance that Israel is no longer capable of upholding even the pretense of a commitment to the two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
(By Lara Friedman, originally published on the Huffington Post, February 14, 2012)